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Whistler Pride returns to paint the town rainbow

The ski festival for LGBTQ lovers of the slopes brings music, dance, comedy and more



The arc of Whistler's winter rainbow will soon be spread across the village with the return of the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival.

And although he hasn't been at the helm of the festival for the entirety of its 24 years, organizer Dean Nelson can't quite believe LGBTQ fans have been showing their pride — and partying their hearts out — for almost a quarter of a century.

"It's really amazing," he says.

"We're putting on the best of comedy, nightclubs and events."

He adds that tickets sales prior to the festival are "trending slightly ahead" of previous years. Just under 3,000 people took part in the nine-day festival in 2015.

This year, the festival takes place from Saturday, Jan. 23 to Sunday, Jan. 31.

Purrlesque is a night of lesbian fun with Vancouver burlesque dancer April O'Peel, backed by Whistler DJ Foxy Moron.

O'Peel says this is her second visit to Whistler Pride. She uses burlesque in a subversive ways to celebrate positivity and sexuality.

"I'm honoured to be invited to Whistler," she says.

"My signature style is work that is not intended for the male gaze. I disrupt that and try to challenge typical convention of beauty, behaviour, and what is acceptable for women."

It about showing off that side of being a female that is normally kept hidden, O'Peel says.

"People love it because it is different and I'm good at what I do," she laughs. Purrlesque takes place at the Cabn at the Aava Hotel on Friday, Jan. 29. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 8 p.m. Whistler DJ Foxy Moron takes a spin early on in the evening.

Whistler Pride's music includes some serious club nights — more than a dozen over the festival.

DJ Alain Jackinsky from Montreal plays the festival's opening night party Avalanche at Encore in Vancouver on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $30.

The annual Cowboy/Cowgirl Party is a taste of wild west with country singer Patrick Masse and DJ Byron James. It takes place at Buffalo Bills on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m.

The Splash Pool Party takes place at the Meadow Park Sports Centre on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $40.

DJ Phil B from San Francisco leads the march at the Furrocious Military Ball at the Whistler Conference Centre on Friday, Jan. 29 at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $45.

As a final night treat, international hit-maker and Tel Aviv DJ Yinon Yatel headlines the Snowball Closing Party, Whistler Pride's final event, on Saturday, Jan. 30. Seattle's Bret Law opens. Tickets are from $75.

And Whistler Pride is always a bit of a drag. This year four American drag queens come together for a night of music and comedy.Oh Snow She Didn't! stars Bianca Del Rio, Jackie Beat, Sherry Vine and Varla Jean Merman at the Whistler Conference Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m.

And one of the most popular events, the annual Pride Ski Parade, takes place on Saturday, Jan. 30, starting at Base II on Blackcomb at 3:30 p.m. Participants will ski down Village Run to Skier's Plaza and continue through the village.

Nelson says the Aava Hotel has stepped up, providing more onsite space for events.

"I have to thank them for their support, they have always been there for the festival," he says.

"There will be parties there all week, lots of après events.

"And, of course, there are the mountains. We think a lot of people will be very happy with the snow this year."

There is ski and snowboarding with Pride Guides, a snowmobile fresh tracks tour, ziplining and snowshoeing.

Full week passes for Whistler Pride are $399 for men, $289 for women. Mid-week and weekend passes are also available, as are tickets to individual events.

Tickets for all events can be purchased at www.gaywhistler.com.